How Professional Voice Actors Should Approach Their Scripts
It goes without saying that professional voice actors need to have a great voice for their work to be successful. But there’s more to a “great voice” than the quality of their vocal abilities.
Yes, a voice over artist must be able to speak clearly and have a voice that resonates with the audience. But here’s the thing … someone could have the most amazing voice in the world, but that won’t matter if they don’t know how to approach the script they’re reading.
In a recent post, I touched on the importance of understanding a script and how it’s a critical aspect of high-quality voice over services. But I want to break that down a little deeper to explain what I mean.
3 Questions Professional Voice Actors Should Consider
If professional voice actors want their voices to resonate, here are the questions they need to consider before they even step up to the mic.
1) What is the message?
Understanding the message is the most important first step to approaching a script. After all, anybody can read words on a page. What separates professional voice actors from everyone else is that they know how to cater their voice to the message being expressed. They know how and when to modulate their voice, what pitch to use, when to lower their voice, when to push it and so on.
As a basic example, check out this voice-over I did for Under Armour. This was a high-energy script with a powerful message to athletes: “Rule yourself.” The message was motivating. It had attitude. It spoke to athletes’ drive and it pushed athletes to push themselves.
Can you imagine if I had read that script like it was a soft-spoken poem or a technical manual? The message would fall completely flat. This is why it’s so important for voice over artists to understand what the script is about, on the deepest level.
2) Who is the target audience?
For voice over talent, knowing the target audience is just as important as understanding the message of a script.
A professional voice actor can sometimes determine the audience from the script alone, but it’s far more valuable to get those specifics from the producer/client:
- Who is the ad intended to reach? What ages, demographics, etc.?
- Where will the ad be seen/heard?
- What do we know about this demographic? What are their interests, aspirations, challenges, etc.?
All of these answers can help influence the tone of the voice over. By knowing the audience, a voice over talent can speak in a way that is more relatable, authentic, convincing and interesting to the people who hear the message.
3) How do we want the audience to feel, think or act?
This question has to do with the message again, but it’s not just that. It’s about the goal of the message. And while the goal is probably somewhat clear from the script alone, professional voice actors will want to confirm the objectives with the producer.
For example, let’s return to the Under Armour voice-over I mentioned above. Was the goal to get people to go out and buy Under Armour gear? Not really, no – that’s not what this ad was about. It’s about branding. The message is intended make the audience feel inspired, challenged and electrified, so that people then associate those feelings in a positive way with the Under Armour brand. Sure, maybe the big-picture is about selling more products, but the immediate goal of the ad is to connect with the audience on an emotional level.
For the voice actor, that means the message shouldn’t sound sales-y, hokey, forced or out of step with the goal. It needs to sound more like a personal trainer in the athlete’s own ear (or the voices in their own head), pushing them to work harder. That’s what makes this particular ad effective. But ultimately, every ad will have its own unique goals.
If a voice actor doesn’t fully understand the script – including the underlying message, the goal or who it’s intended for – then it will fail to connect with the audience.
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